Ano Nuevo State Park is located in Pescadero just a 30 minute drive north of Santa Cruz. It is a super fun place to explore and learn about the humongous elephant seals.
The Elephant Seal Guided Walks run from Dec 15th-March 31st. You can book your tour by clicking the link here. Tickets are $7 a person and children under 3 are free. The elephant seal viewing area is a 3-4 mile moderate hike over sand dunes and a wooden path. It wasn’t challenging at all and our 2 1/2 year old walked most of it. The tour itself takes about 2.5 hours. You aren’t walking for that long, you just stop in several places along the way and talk about the coast, the lighthouse, and the life of the elephant seals. Then they give you plenty of time to watch them before you head back.
The tour guides are so informative and keep you safe so you don’t get too close to these 1-3 ton creatures. We literally had to stop and wait for one to giggle across our path. They say up to 10,000 elephant seals return to breed, give birth, molt their skin, and bask in the scenic dunes every year. We saw a couple thousand when we were there. Even a few were having a brawl and making their weird calling noises with their trunks. There is no need for binoculars as we were so close.
And Nuevo State Park is also a major bird migratory route and several of the people on our tour where there for the birds not the seals. They pointed out lots of the other wildlife as we went on.
You start and end your tour in the Marine Education Center filled with history, a small theater, and a bookstore. Cove Beach is also a short walk from here as well. The State Park is another great place to spend the day. If you want to learn more about the life of an elephant seal before you go click here. If you plan on going it’s good to know what the elephant seals will be up to:
- April 1-August 31st-Molting Season
- September 1-November 30th-Faul Juvenile Haul Out
- December 1-14th-Wildlife Viewing Area Closed for arrival of pregnant females
- December 15-March 31st-Breeding Season (View seals by taking a guided tour)